Africa Media Review for February 20, 2018

Africa’s Most Challenging Elections in 2018
In 2018, 20 countries in Africa will hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Past experience indicates that 20 percent of African elections have experienced violence resulting in fatalities. To better understand the prospects for electoral violence in 2018, this analysis reviews countries facing unique challenges to holding peaceful elections. Yet, violence is not a foregone conclusion. International and domestic stakeholders can take important steps ahead of elections to reduce the potential for violence. As nearly 95 percent of all electoral violence takes place before elections, early warning requires early action to leverage political will and financial capital to forestall violence. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Three Suicide Bombers Kill 18 at Crowded Market in Nigeria
Police say three suicide bombers have attacked a crowded market in northern Nigeria, killing at least 18 people. Borno state police spokesman Joseph Kwaji confirms the Friday night attack to The Associated Press. The bombers, all believed to be female, left another 22 people wounded at a fish market in Konduga, just outside the state capital, Maiduguri. The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram continues to carry out deadly suicide bombings in Borno and other parts of northern Nigeria as part of its violent campaign to establish an Islamic state in the West African nation. AP

Nigeria Frees 475 Boko Haram Suspects for Lack of Evidence
The freed suspects will undergo rehabilitation before reuniting with their families. The trials are part of Nigeria’s biggest legal probe into the militant Islamist insurgency that has plagued its northeastern region. Deutsche Welle

Police Accused of Killing Boko Haram Founder Reinstated
Five Nigerian police officers who were accused of killing Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf while in their custody have been reinstated, a police oversight body said on Monday. The officers were charged with committing a terrorist act and unlawfully killing the Islamist group’s spiritual leader during days of unrest in the northeast city of Maiduguri in July 2009. The clashes, in which about 800 Boko Haram followers were killed, prompted an escalation in violence that has since left at least 20 000 dead and made over 2.6 million more homeless. A judge in Abuja in late December 2015 acquitted the police on the grounds the prosecution could not establish a case against them. The ruling attracted little publicity at the time. AFP

Locals Call Boko Haram ‘Slave Raiders.’ Here’s What That Means, and Why It Matters
Although widely understood as the Islamist terrorists that they are, Boko Haram insurgents in the borderlands between Cameroon and Nigeria are also slave raiders — at least that’s what many local residents call them. And there’s good reason to use that term. In many striking ways, Boko Haram’s raids for “wives” parallel the slave raids of a century ago. Thinking about Boko Haram as slave raiders, complete with a history in the semi-lawless borderlands, might change how policymakers approach this group and similar insurgencies across West Africa. […] The last major slave raids in the region took place from 1912 to 1920. They were directed by Hamman Yaji, a Fulani Muslim chief living in the Nigerian town of Madagali. Hamman Yaji kept a diary which, extraordinarily, survived and has been published in English. Before he was deposed by the British — on suspicion of being an Islamist extremist, not for slave raiding — Hamman Yaji terrorized Mandara populations. The Washington Post

Somalia Appoints New Security Chiefs to Combat Al-Shabab
The Somali government has appointed new security chiefs, nearly four months after firing the previous commanders after a series of deadly al-Shabab attacks. But experts warn that the new security chiefs are not “miracle” workers and need support from the public and their own government to win the war against the militants. During a special meeting in Mogadishu on Monday, the Cabinet approved the appointment of Hussein Osman Hussein to become director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and General Bashir Abdi Mohamed to be the commissioner of the police. Also appointed was Major General Bashir Mohamed Jama, known as “Gobe,” who returns as commander of the prison guards, a position he lost less than a year ago. VOA

Defiance Strike in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region over State of Emergency
The city of Gondar in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara regional state has been hit by a strike days after the declaration of a national state of emergency by the Council of Ministers. Even though it is not known who called for the sit-down strike, reports indicate that the measure has left the city deserted. Shops have not opened and some government offices remain closed. According to a top blogger, Befeqadu Hailu, the city is pressing ahead with the strike despite it being a prohibited act under the state of emergency declared late last week. Minister of defense Siraj Fegessa stated that it will be in place for six months. Africa News

US Opposes Ethiopia’s State of Emergency
The US government has opposed the Ethiopian government’s declaration of state of emergency following the anti-government demonstrations. “We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression,” the US embassy in Addis Ababa said. “…The declaration of a state of emergency undermines recent positive steps toward creating a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners. Restrictions on the ability of the Ethiopian people to express themselves peacefully sends a message that they are not being heard,” the embassy said in a statement. The statement is one of the few the US has issued publicly on Ethiopia in its close to three decades relations with the African state. Reuters

Sudan Releases Political Prisoners from Khartoum Jails
Sudanese authorities said on Sunday they would release more than 80 political prisoners from jails in the capital Khartoum, a week after the African country appointed a new security chief. A Reuters reporter said he had seen about 40 prisoners released from the main prison by Sunday evening and that some prominent opposition leaders were still being held there. A presidential adviser had earlier said in a statement that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had ordered more than 80 political detainees to be released. All of them were arrested last month after protests about high prices and tough economic conditions that turned violent. Reuters

South Sudan Rebels Release Kenyan Pilots after Compensation Paid
South Sudanese rebels have released two Kenyan pilots they were holding after receiving compensation for the family of a civilian killed when their plane crashed last month, a rebel spokesman said on Monday. The plane came down in Akobo, in the Greater Upper Nile region in early January, and the rebels asked for compensation for the family of a woman who was killed, and for others who lost livestock. Lam Paul Gabriel, deputy spokesman of the rebel SPLA-IO told Reuters that $107,700 had been paid. “I have just confirmed now that pilots have been released by the local leaders of Akobo after they received a full compensation from the Kenya delegates,” Lam said. AFP

Kenya’s Political Turmoil Is a Tale of Fathers and Sons
[…] Jomo Kenyatta, the father of the current president, was a Kenyan freedom fighter, the living embodiment of African nationalism, and, therefore, the British colonial government’s most hated man. He spent the last decade of Kenya’s colonial rule in prison. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga, negotiated independence with the British. The colonial rulers wanted Mr. Odinga to lead the new Kenya, but Mr. Odinga had other ideas: He demanded Mr. Kenyatta’s freedom — and his appointment as Kenya’s first head of state. “Kenyatta would not have been released, and he wouldn’t have been made prime minister, if it hadn’t been for Odinga’s backing,” said Daniel Branch, a professor of history at the University of Warwick and an expert on post-colonial Kenyan politics. “The two men always admired each other.” And so, in 1964, when Kenya became a republic, Jomo Kenyatta became its president, and Jaramogi Odinga vice-president. The New York Times

AFRICOM Sees Growing Threat from ISIS Affiliate
An Islamic State affiliate operating under the radar in western Africa now poses a more significant threat to the region than the notorious Boko Haram terrorist group, U.S. military officials say. The Islamic State West Africa, made up of former Boko Haram fighters, broke away from its parent group about 2016 after internal power struggles. The group, which maintains loose ties to the core ISIS leadership in Syria and Iraq, has taken on more sophisticated battlefield tactics than Boko Haram and is making inroads among local populations, U.S. Africa Command officials said. “Our greater concern now is the splinter group,” Col. Stephen Wertz, who manages AFRICOM efforts in western Africa, said on Friday. “We see them as a longer term strategic threat.” Stars and Stripes

AU Deploys Election Observers in Djibouti
The African Union (AU) has deployed its election observers in Djibouti, for the legislative elections scheduled to take place on Friday in the Horn of African nation. The Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has deployed the AU election observation mission (AUEOM) led by Anicet-Georges Dologuele, former Prime Minister of the Central African Republic (CAR), according to a statement from the pan-African bloc on Monday. The mission is composed of 38 members, including, ambassadors accredited to the AU in Addis Ababa, pan-African parliamentarians, heads of institutions in charge of elections and members of organizations of the African civil society. Xinhua

Rumors Feed a Surge in Migrants to Agadez
The central city of Agadez has long been a common stopover for migrants and refugees passing through the country. Many, however, have recently chosen to remain there for the time being. The mayor of Agadez, Rhissa Feltou, says that there has been a major surge of Sudanese nationals coming to Agadez lately, “but also other countries where I don’t have enough information to go into detail about nationalities and numbers.” In addition to their numbers, there have also been changes in the demographic profiles of migrants and refugees passing through Agadez. “We have had an increase in the numbers of Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees coming from Libya to Agadez. All of them say that they’ve been experiencing situations of extreme violence there,” Louise Donovan, a field officer working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Niger, told InfoMigrants. Deutsche Welle

Mozambique Rubbish Dump Collapse Kills 17 after Heavy Rains
At least 17 people have been killed after heavy rains caused the partial collapse of a rubbish dump in Mozambique. A 15-metre high pile of rubbish collapsed, destroying seven houses, and rescuers fear more bodies may be buried under the debris. The accident, at the Hulene landfill, six miles from the centre of the capital, Maputo, happened at 3am local time. Families living close to the site have fled their homes fearing another collapse. Reports suggest the houses were built illegally and officials had previously asked residents to leave. The Independent

France Urges UN Top Court to Dump E Guinea Case
France accused Equatorial Guinea on Monday of wanting to “paralyse” French criminal procedure in a top-level corruption probe, as it urged judges to throw out a case against it before the UN’s top court. Malabo has dragged Paris before the International Court of Justice in a bitter diplomatic row, accusing it of violating the diplomatic immunity of its vice president Teodorin Obiang. Son of Teodoro Obiang, long-time leader of the oil-rich central African country, Teodorin Obiang has been prosecuted by a French court on charges of embezzling $180m of public funds to finance his jet-set lifestyle. AFP

Russian Official: Haftar Asked Russia to Build Military Base in East Libya
The Head of the Russian contact group on intra-Libyan settlement, Lev Dengov, has revealed that the commander of the self-proclaimed army in eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar, asked Russia to build a military base in the country’s east, saying the Russian defense ministry has the details of the Libyan request. Dengov told Egyptian newspaper Youm 7 that the truth about Haftar’s request is all at the defense ministry in Russia, pointing out that he is sure that such a request from Haftar was delivered to the Russian ministry but he knows nothing about whether it was met with approval or rejection. “Russia is not interested in a military solution in Libya and is in support of the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame because we care about the implementation of the Skhirat-signed agreement.” Dengov further added in an interview issued on Sunday by Youm 7. Libya Observer

Tensions between Mnangagwa and Army Commanders Grow
Tensions  are gradually intensifying between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the military clique surrounding him, amid revelations that the army is exerting overbearing influence on the executive. Official sources say the military is even exercising veto power in some instances, while also influencing the operations of government and other security organs. Senior government officials told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the military element in Zanu PF has serious political ambitions, to the extent that they want Mnangagwa to serve one term, if he wins elections, before handing the baton over to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also in charge of the ministries of defence and war veterans. The Zimbabwe Independent

Gambia Suspends Death Penalty in Step towards Abolition
Gambian President Adama Barrow has announced a suspension of the death penalty in his country, in a break from the former regime of the dictator Yahya Jammeh. Barrow, a onetime security guard in London who was elected president in December 2016, signed a UN treaty on the abolition of capital punishment last year. “I will use this opportunity to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the Gambia, as a first step towards abolition,” Barrow said in a speech marking the 53rd anniversary of independence from Britain. Jammeh ruled Gambia, a small English-speaking country surrounded by Senegal and a narrow Atlantic coastline, with an iron fist for 22 years. The Guardian